7 Ways to Foster Your Hunting Dog’s Natural Retrieve

Feb 25, 2021 | Hunting Dog | 0 comments

If you own a hunting dog, you know the quest for a successful harvest is dually exciting for both human and canine. The joy in your dog’s eyes as its tail thrashes back-and-forth speaks volumes about the anticipation to recover a downed bird for you. This special experience is a partnership uniting canine and man in a common cause.
 

Total Purpose

A bird dog has many purposes. One of those purposes is to recover and retrieve birds, thus completing the harvest. A full retrieve consists of two parts: the picking up portion, and the bringing it straightaway to your hand portion. If a bird-hunting dog cannot perform the full task of retrieving, then the dog is not achieving its total mission in life.

Our previous dog training BaseMap article shared tips and tricks for training your new hunting pup. In the article, we talked about the first few months of a pup’s life should consist of simple fun things meant to foster natural ability. The same principles apply to your pup’s natural retrieve. During the first few months, use fun drills in a direct and strategic manner to bring out the natural retrieve in your new hunting companion.

Follow these easy-to-do tips to encourage a puppy’s natural retrieve.

1 • No Tug-Of-War

Most of us have done this at some point. Playing tug-of-war with a pup comes natural to both human and pup. Although it seems fun and playful, tug-of-war leads to future challenges in bringing the bird back and releasing the bird.

2 • Barter

You will hear trainers go both ways on what we are about to tell you. We suggest bartering for the fetching dummy using some sort of treat. A pup’s natural instinct is to hold on for dear life. This is where the previously discussed tug-of-war ends up happening. Entice the pup to release the fetching dummy using a tasty treat rather than some sort of pressure.
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3 • Use Obstacles

Use your environment as a tool for success. When playing fetch, choose an area that forces the pup to run straight away and straight back. This will limit the pup’s want to run around and play keep away. A hallway is a perfect example of this. When throwing an object in the hallway, the pup has to go directly to it, pick it up, and the only option is to come back to you.

4 • One-On-One

Use your environment as a tool for success. When playing fetch, choose an area that forces the pup to run straight away and straight back. This will limit the pup’s want to run around and play keep away. A hallway is a perfect example of this. When throwing an object in the hallway, the pup has to go directly to it, pick it up, and the only option is to come back to you.
BaseMap Tip: Whether scouting, training, or hunting with your dogs – keep your maps and SmartMarkers organized by placing bird-hunting specific icons. This way when opening your maps to find the location of that covey of quail you found last month or if you want to share the location of the meet-up gate with your hunting partner, it’s easy to pull up and there is zero time wasted.

5 • Repetition of Success

Puppies will be puppies, some days seem like you are moving forward while other days it is a step back. One of the easiest ways a new bird dog owner can become discouraged is by over expecting. Instead of moving on when a pup does well with something, continue to reinforce the same skill repeatedly.

6 • Short Training Sessions

With a pup, keep training drills short because a pup’s attention span is also short. Keeping these drills short also leaves them wanting more so they will be excited for the next session.

7 • Have Fun

This goes for both the owner and the pup. Make sure every play/training session is enjoyed by the both of you. A dog is acutely aware of your tone and mood. You are the leader. If you are not enjoying the training, neither will the pup.

Just Remember

The bond you build now with your hunting pup will set the stage for the future. Positivity and fun are your best tools to foster natural ability during these critical first few months.
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